Dunkirk Review (Spoiler Free)
So let’s talk about Dunkirk (no spoilers*). I got to see an early screening last night and it has all the hallmarks of a Christopher Nolan flick. Weird use of time/chronology? Check. Use of manufactured dutch angles? Check. Dizzying perspectives? Double check. Downright beautiful visuals so damn pretty each shot could be a painting? Check. Somewhat grim tone? Check and double check. “WAAAAAA” sound? Yep.
So Dunkirk, if you didn’t know, was based on the favour escape of the British (and later French) army following the battle of France in WWII. They got encircled by the Germans and had to get the majority of their army from the shores of Dunkirk to Britain, across the British Channel. They were out in the open and ships kept getting blown up. Spoiler: they’d return 4 years later to France about 250 miles east of where they left in the Invasion of Normandy.
So yeah- let’s talk about the movie. It is certainly one of the most visually accurate war movies out there- and it is a war movie, make no mistake. There is no surprise genre twist- this is a war movie’s war movie. In fact it’s such a specific kind of war movie that you can see exactly what movie it wants to grow up to be- Dunkirk is Christopher Nolan trying to make Saving Private Ryan. And, despite some weirdness, it is actually mostly successful. This is probably the most visually beautiful war movie you’ll ever see. The scenes with the planes are beyond inspired and the claustrophobic scenes are frighteningly so.
Let’s get to the bad stuff though. I saw the movie in iMax and I’ll say this: it was painful; like physically painful. I don’t know if it was the speakers or what but the movie had this bass that kept blasting over everything else and it actually caused pain to myself and a few of the people I saw it with. The audio on the movie kind of drowns out its own dialogue often but, oddly, that’s ok because when they speak it’s mostly exposition that is just filling you in on the situation- not the people. That brings me to the next big issue, and I’m not entirely sure I’d call it an “issue” really; it’s much more a stylistic choice that I’m not sure I agree with. Nolan decided not to focus as much on the characters as the situation. Yeah there are characters but, other than Sir David Mark Rylance Waters’s character Mr. Dawson and Tom Glynn-Carney’s Peter (and maybe the staff officers) everyone else kind of melded together. It was like Noland decided not to characterize/humanize most of the soldiers and, if that was his intent, it worked because it did highlight the kind of dehumanization that occurs.
Final score? It’s damn good but still has a few flaws. If you love war movies- it’s a must see. It fits right in with Fury, Saving Private Ryan, and Blackhawk Down. If you hate them- there is nothing there for you really. So, if you like war movies- 9/10. Otherwise skip it.
Parental Viewing Notes:
This has a hard R despite being a PG-13 rating… for some reason. Your kids will have nightmares.
*Also, it’s based on a historical event so you can kinda just go look it up.